Friday, 22 May 2015

Let’s Brew Wednesday – 1871 Carlsberg Mild

As an extra special treat, two Let’s Brews this week. And let’s face it, this is a pretty special beer.

The historian at Carlsberg told me Carl Jacobsen had wanted to brew both Lager and Ales when he returned in 1871 from his study trip to Britain. But I was still amazed to find Mild Ale on the very first page of his Copenhagen brews. It’s not as odd as it might first seem.

British beers still had a good reputation internationally and there had been plenty of brewers taking on British styles on the Continent. Porter and Stout were the most common, but there were also Pale Ales and IPAs made. And Dutch newspaper adverts prove that Mild Ale was exported as well as the more fashionable styles.

These pages in Jacobsen’s personal brewing book are particularly odd. He mixes up imperial and metric measurements. Sometimes he gives the gravity in SG, others in Balling. There are quarters and kilos and who knows what size of barrel he means. Are they imperial or Danish beer barrels? Or something also altogether? It’s hard to say because I can’t get the numbers to make sense. Either he was getting truly dreadful efficiency, of the barrel is at least a hogshead in size.

Not that Jacobsen brewed loads of Mild. The first brew was on 3rd March 1871 and the last on 25th September. A total of 7 brews in all. Table Beer fared better, lasting until 1872. Strong and Pale Ale were still around in 1874. And DBS, his Stout, that still pops up in the last Carlsberg brewing record I looked at, from 1934.

Jacobsen’s first Ales were brewed with yeast from Kongens Bryghus, but later he used Evershed and Lovibond yeast that he must have picked up in Britain.

That’s all I’ve got for the moment. Over to Kristen . . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:
Notes: What a little treat it was to receive this from Ron. Wow, he must really hate me for giving me this piece of crap log!! Ha!! Seriously though, this is one of the most maniacal, ADHD logs I’ve ever seen. A mix of units, weights, volumes, temperature scales, gravity scales, random numbers, etc etc etc. The funny thing though that they used the log of what looks like Youngers gyle books from the same era but everything is hand written in Danish and some of the columns are used for god knows what. Anyway, when all was said and done, it got sorted. I can’t help to think of the poor bastard that had to actually keep these records and replicate anything. Onward…

Malt: A single malt for every single beer in the log. Seriously. One malt. It’s a pale one to be sure. Probably not English. It was based on volume measurements not weights so the exact same beer has a different weight of malt added to it. Which essentially says to me, if they couldn’t be buggered with having the same recipe time and again, lets just choose something nice and be done with it. Belgian Pale malt. That’s what I’m going with. Castle is nice…so yeah, Castle pale malt.

Hops: It’s funny. You have a log that has no really remarks about malt…for any of the beers. Then you have the hops. Where are broken down very well and easily legible. All Saaz. No question. This thing is even dry hopped! A mild. Dry hopped. But look at the amount. Something like 2oz/US bbl. Seriously!? Why go do the trouble of doing it at all?? The only thing I can think of is that it added in the fining process but that’s pretty sketchy as most of the other beers weren’t dry hopped. So. Saaz it is. Dry hop if you’d like. Really up to you but you could go higher if you’d like. Enough so you could taste it but be nice about it. No need to go all bonkers on this one.

Yeast: I count like 4 different yeast strains or there abouts in the log. With the FG being so high, pick something that doesn’t attenuate very well. Like the Northwest ale, or the ESB. Both very nice.

Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Copenhagen day two

I have to be up pretty early. I’ve an appointment at Carlsberg at 09:00. And I plan walking there, which will take a bit more than half an hour.

The breakfast is pretty decent. Cheese, ham, hard and soft boiled eggs, nice bread and quite a lot of sliced veg. It means I can be reasonably healthy in my eating.

Fed, I grab my camera and head west. It’s a lovely day, making walking a pleasure. I’ve been to Carlsberg before, but never on foot. Meaning I get to see a new bit of Copenhagen.

There’s a bit of confusion about our meeting point. I stand patiently in front of Visit Carlsberg while Bjarke (my contact who’s a historian here) waits around the corner. It all gets sorted after a while and Bjarke leads me off around the oldest bits of Ny Carlsberg. He’s got Michael, head brewer at Jacobsen, with him.

Jacobsen, the micro Carlsberg run  in the complex, is housed in cellars from an earlier brewery. I get to see the shiny new kit and taste Jacobsen Brown Ale directly from the conical. Very nice it is, too, if  a little cold for me.

Most surprising is the barrel aging room. Quite modest compared to some I’ve seen in the US, but interestingly nonetheless. Michael gets us tasters the old-fashioned way – piercing the barrel head with an electric drill. He explains that they’ve stumbled about their own Brettanomyces strain, which was lurking somewhere around the premises and crept into one barrel. It’s apt really, given the work Clausen put into researching Brettanomyces here.

Coffee mint Stout with Brettanomyces. That’s what we’re tasting. Impressive stuff, with a lovely vinous character without being overly tart. Not exactly the sort of beer you’d associate with Carlsberg. Though if you’ve been keeping pace with recent developments in Denmark, you may not be so surprised. Jacobsen has been turning out modern-style beers for more than a decade.

We finish in a cellar stuffed to the rafters with crates of beer. A real Aladdin’s cave of Carlsberg. Bjarke suggests trying a special brew of, er, Special Brew, which is several years old. Unlike the normal version, this one is amber in colour. The darker malts have helped it cope better with oxidation. It’s rather tasty. So much so that I take a couple of bottles home.

The archives are right over the other side of the complex. It’s a bit of a walk, but it does take us right past the nicest bits of Ny Carlsberg, with the elephant gate amongst other architectural delights. Bjarke’s pass won’t work on the archive door and he has to ring one of the archivists to let us in.

They’ve already got brewing records out for me. I dive right in, starting at 1867. With Carl Jacobsen’s personal brewing book from his time in Britain. William Younger in Edinburgh and Evershed in Burton. With at the back brews at Ny Carlsberg. It’s the most amazing brewing book I’ve ever seen.

Young Carl obviously picked up the blank book at William Younger. I’d recognise that format anywhere. I realise that his time at Younger coincides with some of their records I’ve photographed. That’s handy. Some of those pictures are a bit blurry.

Bjarke had told me Jacobsen wanted to brew Ales when he got back from Britain. Sure enough, they’re there. Stout, Pale Ale, Strong Ale, Table Beer and  . . . Mild Ale. This is so weird. Carlsberg Mild. It takes me a while to get my head around that. But no time to waste. There will be plenty of time to ponder later. My time here is limited and I mean to use it fully.

752 photographs later and it’s time to leave. I’m totally knacked. It’s a long, slow walk back to my hotel. My feet are killing me. But the sun is shining, the birds are singing and people are drinking beer in pavement cafés.

I notice Ølbutikken. Didn’t spot that on the way out. I nip in and buy a couple of bottles for later. I could have drunk them there, but I need a lie down.

After a couple of hours lounging around my hotel I decide to venture out. Not far, mind. Only as far as Brewpub. Can’t be arsed to walk any further. On the way I stop by a pølsevogn on the town hall square. I get the most bratwurst-like sausage in a roll so dry it crumbles in my hand.

It’s pretty full – it is almost 8 PM on a Friday – but I find a seat at the bar. Let’s start with something dark:

Cole US Porter, 5.2% ABV
Another black malt affair. It has seven malts. Sounds like three or four too many. I was surprised to see that Carlsberg were still using brown malt in the DBS Stout in the 1920’s. I snapped records from 1867 to 1934. A pretty good spread.

Surprised that there’s nothing over 6% ABV on draught.

Weird that I collected some more Younger and Evershed records today. Especially the latter. More Burton Pale Ale recipes. Life throws up some weird shit.

I feel like sleeping, if I’m honest. Who would have thought taking photos could be so tiring? I’m yawning away like crazy.

At least the Lager history Rod wants me to write is getting more feasible. I just need to look at the records of a few Bavarian and Czech breweries I am totally insane to even consider such a project. At least three or four years of heavy research needed.

I managed to miss the Belgian Dubbel at 7.5^ ABV. I must be tires. Guess that’s next.

Just saw them pour some 80/-. It’s almost black. Guess they’ve never drunk a Scottish one.

Abbaye de Villiers (Belgian Dubbel, 7.5% ABV)
Right colour, unlike the 80 bob. Bit sweet. With some sort of infection/funky thing going on in the background. Bit odd. Not sure I like the effect of the champagne yeast/

Ah – it just clicked. Was Jacobsen the reason William Younger brewed a Pilsner in the 1870’s? Who would have thought I’d learn about Scottish beer in Copenhagen?

I leave it at just the two beers. On the way back I stop at the other pølsevogn on the town hall square. I skip the bread this time and stick with just a bratwurst-like thing. That’ll do for my tea.

I’ve an event-type thing tomorrow afternoon. Shouldn’t be too late to bed.

Istedgade 44,
1650 København V.
Tel: +45 33 22 03 04

BrewPub København
Vestergade 29,
1456 København K.
Tel.: 33 32 00 60

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1959 Watneys XX Mild

Not sure if Kristen’s going to make it on time this week. So I here’s a recipe of mine.

Watney – now there’s a name to conjure with. The bogeyman of brewing in the 1970’s. This wasn’t brewed in their own Mortlake brewery but at Ushers of Trowbridge in the West Country. Watney owned the brewery and clearly made them brew some of their own lovely brands.

If I remember correctly, Ushers was one of the few Watney plants that never completely got rid of cask. Their beers were OK, if nothing particularly special. When Watney started to unravel, Ushers regained its independence with its own estate of tied houses. This arrangement only lasted around a decade, when the brewery was closed and it continued as a pure pub company. The brewing equipment ended up in North Korea.

Returning to the beer, XX belongs to the wateriest class of Milds, whose origins can be traced back to the Government Ale of WW I. After war’s end, a new, very low-gravity type of Mild called 4d Ale continued to be brewed. At a time when standard Mild was 1035 – 1043º, 4d Ale was usually under 1030º. When WW II forced down gravities of standard Mild to a similar level, 4d Ale mostly disappeared.

Some brewers, particularly in the West Country, continued to brew their Mild at very low gravities, even after most had bounced back to the low 1030’s. It’s no coincidence that the gravity is 1028º. There was no point dropping below 1027º as no matter how low the gravity, the minimum duty chargeable was as if a beer were 1027º.

There’s nothing too horrible about the grist: mostly mild ale malt with a bit of crystal and flaked maize, plus a bit of sugar. As with Watney’s Brown Ale, it’s the other shit thrown in that’s the problem. This was added to the gyles (332 barrels) to make 383 barrels:

BB 18 barrels
Bottoms 18 barrels
RB 11 barrels
finings 4 barrels

A bit better than the Brown Ale – at least this is only 15% crap.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to recreate that gyling. I can’t imagine the leftover beer added anything positive to the finished product.

That’s me done. Over to  . . . . me . . . .

1959 Watneys XX Mild
MA malt 4.75 lb 79.76%
crystal malt 40 L 0.25 lb 4.20%
flaked maize 0.33 lb 5.54%
roast barley 0.25 lb 4.20%
No. 2 invert 0.25 lb 4.20%
caramel 0.125 lb 2.10% 5.96 lb
ginger pinch

Fuggles 45 min 1.00 oz

OG 1028

FG 1007

ABV 2.78

Apparent attenuation 75.00%

IBU 14.5

SRM 30

Mash at 152º F

Sparge at 170º F

Boil time 45 minutes

pitching temp 60º F

Yeast WLP023 Burton Ale

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s - Continental Hops

I almost forgot about this. Too busy getting distracted by other shiny articles about hops in the 1950’s.

So here’s Jeffery’s overview of foreign hops. Imported hops had become much less important after the two world wars. For the very simple reason that Britain had become self-sufficient in hops for the first time since the early 1800’s.

Continental Hops. A general characteristic of all Continental hops is the small size of the cone. Indeed, they look only a quarter grown compared with English hops, but even so they are fully grown out. Another noticeable feature is the absence of seeds due to the intentional elimination of the male plant. The strigs are very short, and the bracts are tightly attached to them at very short intervals. Even when ripe it is difficult to pull them apart. On that account Continental hops are favoured for dry hopping, as they do not break up and create floaters. It has been found that this is a very wasteful way of using them, as the failure to break retains the resins which would otherwise be imparted with benefit to the beer.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 175.

Now isn’t that interesting? No, not the thing about Continental hops being seedless. I knew about that. I meant about them being used often as dry hops. By “floaters” he means small pieces of hop that would finish up in someone’s pint. Not what you wanted as a brewer, obviously. Though Jeffery seems to think that not breaking apart was also a disadvantage to their use as dry hops.

He seems quite enthusiastic about the best Continental hops:

“The pockets are of strong texture and large, holding 3 cwt. or more. When samples are drawn, the side shows the hops as very compact, with the resins in definite yellow clusters. There is an absence of leaves, since careful picking is insisted upon. This care also applies to curing, which is very regular. Picking only takes place when the crop is really ripe and ready, and the hops are sun-dried until the whole produce of the Garden is ready for the final curing. The delicacy of flavour of the best growths is indisputable, and it is not to be wondered at that they are hops which find much favour for pale ales. Their preservative properties, too, are high.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 175 - 176.

Saying they were good enough for Pale Ale is high praise indeed. If you remember, most English hops weren’t considered worthy.

Which Continental hops were considered best isn’t hard to guess:

“In order of brewing value we place first and foremost Certificated Saaz. They are usually of extreme delicacy of flavour, well managed, nicely cured and full of resins. As such, they are highly favoured for the best beers. Next comes the choicest Spalts, which nearly reach the excellence of the Saaz mentioned above. They are not quite so delicate in flavour, however. Then may be bracketed together in about equal value the Saaz Country and Spalt Country, a little greener in colour than the choicer samples, and not quite so regular in size and development. Hallertaus may be placed next, but they require careful examination and selection because, at times, they are decidedly on the green side and not fully grown out. Following these, we place Wurtembergs, hops of some variation in colour and quality. We have seen some quite rich in resins, while others have a distinct deficiency. Lastly, we mention Poperinghes, about which we hardly dare hazard a guess why they are grown at all. They are practically devoid of resin. Their value is for freshening up old hops at the beginning of the season, because they are the first harvested. They have neither character nor flavour. We sometimes hear of Alosts, which can only be classified with Poperinghes.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

There seem to be two types of Saaz hops: Saaz and Saaz Country. I’d noticed the latter – called “Saazer Land” – in Ny Carlsberg’s brewing records. Saaz pop up fairly regularly in British brewing records from the second half of the 19th century onwards. William Younger in Edinburgh were particularly keen on them. In 1868 they were using them in all sorts of beer: IPA, No. 3, 120/-, 140/- and 160/-. Funnily enough, this was exactly the period when Carl Jacobsen was at Younger. I wonder if he picked up the use of Saaz from them.

Hallertau and Wurtemberg hops both appear in Whitbread records from the 1890’s. Hallertau only seem to have been used in Mild Ale, which implies they weren’t considered the very best hops. They pop up again in the 1930’s, this time in Porter and Stout as well as Mild.

Spalt hops were also widely used in Britain at various times. Though they are rarely named, they are usually what was referred to simply as “Bavarians” in brewing records.

Poperinghes and Alost (Aalst) are both Belgian types of hops. They were never rated very highly by British breweries, but they were cheap. I’ve seen both in brewing records, with Poperinghes being far the more common of the two.

The first mention I’ve spotted of Belgian hops in Whitbread’s records in 1849. They used large quantities in the 1850’s in both their Mild and Stock Ales. Occasionally they’re called Poperinghe by name, but mostly it’s just the generic term Belgian.

Next time we’ll be finishing off with North American hops.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Copenhagen day one

I like getting early flights. Ones where I can get up at my normal time. It’s just like going to work, except when I get off the 15 bus at Amsterdam Zuid, I jump on a train to Schiphol rather than a tram to Amstelveen.

Even though I’d allowed plenty of time, when I’ve got through security and walked all the way to the gate, it’s about time to board. I picked up a sandwich in the Albert Heijn landside. A snip a just 3 euros for a broodje gezond. I want something more substantial than the small packet of cheesy biscuits KLM gives you.

As I queue to buy a train ticket into town, I wonder at the direct services from the airport to Malmö and beyond. Thanks the new bridge/tunnel connection between Denmark and Sweden. Must go over in sometime.

It’s too early to check in, so I dump my bags at the hotel and head out for beer. Many of the beer places don’t open until later in the afternoon. But War Pigs, the new Mikkeller/3 Floyds brewpub opens early. And it’s just around the corner. I get there at 1 PM.

Time for a first beer:

Real Estate Mongol Pale Ale 6.9%
In a pretty inelegant glass. Almost like a jam jar, wide and low. Smells just like a US Pale Ale – peach, passion fruit and orange peel. Tastes much the same. Quite pleasant and only 60 crowns (about 8 euros) for 40 cl. At least it’s 6.9% ABV.

Looks like this was some sort of wholesale meat market. Now it’s full of trendiness. Though opposite still seems to be some sort of meat wholesaler.

20 draught beers in all. It’s pretty quiet. Almost as many staff as customers.

I nipped into a cheap supermarket and got myself some rolls, cheese and water. And 2 bottles of Limfjords Porter. It’s a cracking beer and only 17 crowns for a half litre.

It’s great – not one thing I need to do today. I’m free to wander around and drink as I please. And to take notes and snaps. Though when will I use the notes? I haven’t finished writing up my last US trip yet. Doubling the length (unwittingly) of my blog posts hasn’t helped. Insisting on a real post each day is killing me.

Seem to be some Americans working here. I guess that’s the 3 Floyds connection.

I’m surprised that I could understand some of the Danish announcements on the train. Really should practice reading Danish more. I’m going to need that skill tomorrow at Carlsberg. You can’t believe how excited I am at a day with the run of their archives. They seem a friendly bunch there from our email conversations.

Cry for Help, Rick (Robust Porter) 7.4% ABV, 70 crowns
Can’t see if this is clear or not – it’s as black as a fascist’s heart. Not much head. Bit of roast in the aroma. Very ashy in the gob. Tastes like it’s packed with black malt. But I shouldn’t play the dangerous game of guess the ingredient. Too easy to end up looking a twat. Should I tell them Robust Porter is a made-up style? Best not. I’ll only get blank looks.

I’m writing this on the back of a pub guide I put together for myself. Some taken from my Copenhagen Pub Guide web page. But that’s getting dated, so I nicked some places from RateBeer.

Just remembered that I forgot to email my next BeerAdvocate column yesterday. Have to wait until Monday now. The 2nd 1,000 words about Berliner Weisse. And that only took me to the 1970’s. I could easily have written another 2 – 3,0000 words. Just as well, because I need to do that. For my B rettanomyces Festival talk next month.

Shit. More stuff I need to write. Shouldn’t think about stuff like that. I’m supposed to be relaxing.

The brewkit looks about 20 hl to me. Only the brewhouse is in the pub. The fermenters are in another room. Looks like the conicals are 20 hl, too. In the US the fermenters are usually double the brew length.

Big Black Bicycle (Black IPA) 6.3% ABV, 65 crowns
Has the roast/citrus I’d expect in the nose. Quite creamy in the gob. Bitter, but not very aromatic. Had better ones in the US.

On Beer Advocate they noticed I get a name check in the new BJCP guidelines. Some thought it odd – had I turned to the Dark Side. Not really. I was asked politely for my opinion and I gave it. I like to think that I helped improve the Czech styles.

Beards and tattoos – do they define this decade? I’m proudly clean-shaven and uninked.

Mustard Tiger (Belgian Pale Ale) 6.9% ABV, 70 crowns
Took ages to pour. So it has to be dead fizzy. “Because it’s fresh and full of hops” the barman said. Not sure I believe that. Another murky one. Smells very like the Pale Ale I kicked off with. Aagh – I get where the Belgian is coming from. Some funkiness in there. There’s rhe serving problem – the beer is “fretting” with the bugs.

Quarter pound of brisket, quarter pound of pork shoulder, small potato salad. I’m stuffed – for about 20 euros. Not too crazy.

I think this is about my sixth time in Copenhagen. The beer scene has changed so much. Back in the 1980’s draught beer was almost unknown. Almost everything was 33 cl bottles of Carlsberg and Tuborg. Thankfully the Porter was tasty, strong and, for the ABV, not that expensive.

It’s 14:40. Time for a final beer before going back to my hotel to check in.

Smouldering Holes (Imperial Stout) 9.6%
I’m up for a happy ending – and what better way than with an Imperial Stout? Slightly darker than ink during a blackout. Smells like any ashtray with a shot of bourbon. The perfect end-of-lunch drink. But I’m a pisshead, as you already know.

Time to head back to my hotel.

After checking in, I rest a little and check my email. It seems a reasonable enough hotel and the location is dead handy, just around the back of the main station.

18:30 and it’s time for more beer. This time my destination, Taphouse is in the other direction, but still pretty close. It’s another pub that wasn’t around when I last visited the city.

It’s pretty empty inside. Both in terms of customers and decoration. There are 61 draught beers, displayed on screens behind the bar. It claims to be the largest tap selection in Europe. I can’t believe that’s true. But it’s still a load. Hopefully not too many for them to handle. I’m not a huge fan of ridiculously long tap lists. I prefer a smaller number of well-chosen ones. Like, say, at Deep Ellum in Boston.

Amager/Goose Island Rye King 7.3%, 55 crowns for 40 cl
Nice and black., loads of head. Nice tan colour head. Pretty nice. A stack of malt complexity and loads of malt bitterness. I really like this. Best beer today.

Beer Here Harwood Brown Porter 7% ABV, 55 crowns
Black. Smells like black treacle. Good start. Doesn’t taste much like my idea of a Porter. But what the hell, I’m on my holidays. It’s brown, alcoholic and in front of me. Tastes quite nice, too. Though it does taste old. Definite twang of oxidation in there.

Weird the UK election I feel more and more estranged from it. I know I’ll never live there again. All seems irrelevant. Unlike Dutch politics, where I have no say. Bit pissed.

19:25 I shouldn’t stay out too late. Big, big day tomorrow. The big C.

Rocket Zero Gravity (IPA) 7.7%. 55 crowns
Not too murky. Good fruit salad aroma. Really very good.

WarPigs Brewpub
1711, Flæsketorvet 25,
1711 København V, Denmark

Lavendelstræde 15,
1462 København, Denmark

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bottled Scotch Ale in the 1950's

This series isn’t quite dead yet. I’ve found another relatively small set than my lazy arse can be arsed to sift through.

Scotch Ale – now there’s a topic to set my blood raging. At least when style Nazis are talking about it. Because it’s always drivel, totally unrelated to the real style. Like when they start saying that 90/- was a “traditional” name for Scotch Ale. Or “Wee Heavy” – which really just means a nip of Strong Ale.

The reality is for once much simpler than the fantasy. Have I mentioned how dull most Scottish brewing records are? Yes? Well, I’ll say it again anyway. Most Scottish brewing records are dead dull. Because they just had a single recipe which, through the magic of parti-gyling, they’d spin into 60/-, 70/-, 80/- and Strong Ale. Sometimes they even managed to squeeze out a Stout, too.

So really Scottish Strong Ale, usually called Scotch Ale outside Scotland, is just a beefed up Pale Ale. “How come it’s often dark then?” I hear you say. Because they’d colour it up with caramel to whatever shade they happened to fancy. Which was mostly dark brown. But not always, as we’ll see in a minute.

No, they didn’t use roast barley for colour, as some will have you believe. Where did that story come from? Either from someone who didn’t know, or didn’t want to believe how Scottish brewers got colour. Nor did they boil their beer for several days until it turned into syrup. Even if they ever had done that, the practise wouldn’t have survived two world wars when boil times were cut to save fuel.

I won’t go too much into the technical brewing details here. I’m saving that for another time. Just some bare bone specs this time. Mostly, as usual, courtesy of the Whitbread Gravity Book. I really don’t understand how I managed to live before finding that book.

I’ve two tables for you. First, the ones sold in Britain:

Scotch Ale in the 1950's as sold in the UK
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Gordon & Blair Strong Ale 43.5 0.05 1046.7 1006 5.32 87.15% 9 + 40
1957 Younger, Wm. Double Century Ale 32.5 0.06 1051.5 1018.6 4.25 63.88% 80
1953 Younger, Wm. Century Ale 36 0.05 1056.4 1021.4 4.52 62.06% 71 B
1953 Maclachlan Strong Ale 43.5 0.05 1063.2 1016.2 6.12 74.37% 16 + 40
1953 Jeffrey Strong Ale 43.5 0.06 1064.3 1019.7 5.79 69.36% 11 + 40
1953 Barnard Strong Ale 43.5 0.05 1065.2 1018.2 6.11 72.09% 18 + 40
1953 Murray W Heavy Ale 43.5 0.06 1065.9 1019.2 6.07 70.86% 13 + 40
1953 WB Reid Strong Ale 33 0.07 1065.9 1020.3 5.92 69.20% 8 + 40
1953 Younger, Robert  Strong Ale 43.5 0.07 1066.3 1016.8 6.45 74.66% 16 + 40
1953 Tennent Strong Ale 43.5 0.06 1066.4 1021.2 5.86 68.07% 14 + 40
1953 Deucher, James Lochside Strong Ale 38 0.05 1066.9 1014.9 6.79 77.73% 24 B
1955 Aitken Strong Ale 45 0.05 1067 1020.3 6.06 69.70% 105
1958 Bernard Strong Ale 1067 1021 5.97 68.66%
1953 Younger, Geo. Strong Ale 43.5 0.06 1067.6 1021.9 5.93 67.60% 13 + 40
1955 Younger, Geo. Strong Ale 45 0.05 1067.6 1022.3 5.87 67.01% 100
1955 Fowler Twelve Guinea Ale 45 0.04 1068.1 1016.9 6.67 75.18% 120
1958 Tennent Strong Ale 31.25 0.06 1068.4 1022.7 5.71 66.81% 100
1953 Usher Strong Ale 43.5 0.06 1068.5 1020.1 6.29 70.66% 5 + 40
1955 Maclachlan Strong Ale 45 0.05 1068.6 1023.4 5.86 65.89% 75
1953 Steel Coulson Strong Ale 43.5 0.07 1069.5 1014.1 7.24 79.71% 11 + 40
1955 Deucher, James Lochside Strong Ale 45 0.04 1069.6 1019.6 6.50 71.84% 31
1953 Fowler J Strong Ale 45 0.07 1070.3 1017.6 6.87 74.96% 12 + 40
1953 McEwan Strong Ale 45 0.06 1070.7 1019.5 6.66 72.42% 10 + 40
1953 Younger, Wm. Strong Ale 43.5 0.05 1071.2 1024.2 6.09 66.01% 9 + 40
1955 Younger, Wm. No. 1 Strong Ale 45 0.04 1071.4 1024.3 6.11 65.97% 80
1955 McEwan Strong Ale 45 0.05 1071.5 1020.8 6.59 70.91% 85
1955 Murray W Heavy Ale 45 0.04 1071.7 1021 6.59 70.71% 105
1953 Steel Coulson Strong Ale 45 1075
1957 Jeffrey Dishers Extra Strong Ale 64 0.07 1088.6 1017.1 9.40 80.70% 27
Average 43.15 0.06 1067.3 1019.3 6.20 71.22%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive
document from the Steel Coulson archive held at the Scottish Brewing Archives

There was quite a history of brewing strong beers in Scotland. That’s what they were famous for internationally. Well that and IPA. These are all, with a couple of exceptions at the start of the table, pretty powerful beers for the 1950’s. And the average gravity of 1067.3º is high. Especially when you consider average gravity of all beer was around 1037º.

For Scottish beers the degree of attenuation is also reasonably high. Though what I’ve noticed with a brewery’s 60/-, 70/- and 80/- is that there often wasn’t much difference in the FG. Meaning the stronger the beer, the higher the degree of attenuation. Scottish brewers clearly liked to leave some body in their low-gravity beers. Even if that was at the expense of ABV.

Colour. I told you I’d be coming back to that. All the above beers are dark brown. With the exception of Lochside Strong Ale and Dishers Extra Strong Ale, which are the colour of Bitter. No idea why these beers should be different to the rest.

Averaging 43d per pint, they’re about treble the price of a pint of draught Mild. So expensive beers. Though you have to take into account the higher price of bottled beer. The vast majority were sold in nip (third of a pint) bottles. Which meant a bottle of Strong Ale cost about the same as a pint of draught. I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. The price of a full pint would have scared customers off.

The second table is of Scotch Ales sold in Belgium:

Scotch Ale in the 1950's as sold in Belgium
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1955 John Smith Scotch Ale 0.08 1072.3 1022 6.54 69.57% 75
1954 John Smith Scotch Ale 0.06 1072.6 1022.1 6.56 69.56% 95
1955 Truman Scotch Ale 0.08 1083.4 1025.6 7.52 69.30% 80
1955 McEwan Scotch Ale 0.07 1088.2 1020.2 8.92 77.10% 65
1955 Younger, Geo. Gordon Highland Scotch Ale 0.07 1090.3 1029.9 7.86 66.89% 55
1954 Younger, Geo. Gordon Highland Scotch Ale 0.06 1090.9 1028 8.20 69.20% 60
Average 0.07 1083.0 1024.6 7.60 70.27% 71.7
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

The sharper eyed amongst have probably spotted that three of the six aren’t even from Scotland. Unsurprisingly, these average a good bit stronger than the domestic examples. They look like the Strong Ales sold in Scotland before WW II. Which is probably what they are in reality.

What is a surprise is the relatively pale colour of the three from Scotland. Around 60 is only just about brown.

I just took a look at the Stouts. So many of the bloody things. I’ll need some special motivation to tackle those.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Houston final day

I’m up early. Very early. I’ve arranged a wakeup call for 5 AM. I’m too early for breakfast, which kicks off at six.

I hope the shuttle bus company got my booking OK.  I haven’t had a confirmation. Not booking until yesterday was a bit stupid of me. I knew I’d be taking it weeks ago. Still, I’m sure everything will be fine.

I stand outside with my bags 15 minutes early, at quarter to six. It’s pretty quiet, though there are a couple of people smoking.

I start getting worried at 6:05. By 6:15 I’m shitting bricks. Looks like I may have to take a taxi. Why didn’t I book the stupid shuttle earlier? It’s quite a distance to Charlotte so a taxi will be expensive. But I have to get to Charlotte on time. If I miss my flight, there isn't another to Houston until tomorrow.

At 6:30 I admit that the bus isn’t coming. And go back inside to arrange a taxi. The woman behind the hotel desk rings around the local taxi firms. None can do the 120-mile ride in the morning. If they could, it would cost $280.

Excrement Alley, propelling instrument-free is where I am. Then the woman on the desk says, "Wait 15 minutes and I'll take you." What a relief. My kecks were only a few minutes away from a good browning. (Not such a disaster, as I had a supply of trollies and kecks, just no more transport possibilities.)

Now I do have time for a quick brekkie. Though my stomach is churning so much I’ve zero appetite.

At the end of her night shift, she’ll spend four hours driving a total stranger to the airport and then back home. I'm not sure I'd do it.

We drive through some very rural – and scenic – bits of North Carolina. But I can’t really pay the scenery much attention. I’m still worried about making it to the airport on time. Luckily, the traffic is light – it is Saturday morning, after all.

Of course, I give the kind lady petrol money and a good wadge of dosh, but she hadn't asked for anything. She’s really saved me. As my flight back to Amsterdam is tomorrow, I could quite easily have missed that if I’d missed my plane here.

Restores your faith in humanity.

Checking in, I’m surprised to see that I’ve got two free checkin bags. I’m flying Southwest, which is a cheapo carrier. They don’t even have assigned seats. I’m not complaining. Saves me carrying all my junk around the airport.

I’ve time for a couple of drinks airside. I have a few Knob Creeks. Purely to settle my nerves, you understand. I’m still feeling a bit shaky from all the worry.

On the ground in Houston, it’s a long bouncy ride past endless sand-coloured strip malls to my hotel. I’m in the Magnolia again. A really nice hotel and right in the centre of town. Plus there’s the Flying Saucer just around the corner.

Which is where I head after dumping my bags and doing a little light shopping. It’s quite full, but I find a spot at the bar. Miniskirted waitresses dance around the room, ferrying glasses of delight to all corners.

It’s only 14:45, but I’m knacked. Up at five then a stack of stress. I order a beer from one of the serving lasses.

Martin House Cellarman’s IPA
Not much of a cellarman, I think, as it’s murky as hell. Not hugely aromatic, but pretty bitter. Not sure the murk is helping the flavour.

Next I try:

Saint Arnold Icon Blue
This is a better-looking beer: dark amber, pretty clear, nice fluffy head. Classic grapefruit-driven IPA. Really nice and aromatic, lots of citrus all the way through. Quite nice.

Bearded men and tattooed ladies. At least you can shave off a beard when it goes out of fashion. Here it’s not arm but leg tattoos. Weird and incredibly unsexy. I need more beer.

(512) Pecan Porter
How more southern can you get? I suppose it could have a shotgun in it, too. Pretty black. Totally opaque. Not much head. Roasted malt aroma. Liquorice. Like liquid ink. Hang on, ink is liquid. At least until it dries. Like ink, but tastier. Like old school Porter/Stout – loads of black malt (or something similar).

I’ve hit a wall again. Not literally, obviously. I order some food – a pork stew. When it comes, it doesn’t look like I expected. It’s in a shallow frying pan and covered in melted cheese. It comes with flour tortillas. Pretty nice. I needed more food. A light breakfast is all I’ve eaten today.

A final beer before I return to my hotel for a lie down.

Martin House Mind on my Money 9.2% ABV
Another murky one. Seems a them with Martin House. Grapefruit and caramel. Actually some malt in this one.

After a couple of hours rest I venture out again for food. A hamburger, accompanied by Pine Drop IPA, in some random bar and grill. Then it’s time for bed.

The Flying Saucer
705 Main St
Houston, TX 77002

Buy my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

Friday, 15 May 2015

15% off print versions of Mild! Plus for the rest of May

I think the title says it all, doesn't it. No? OK, Ill repeat it for the hard of reading.

For the rest of Mild Month I'm slashing 15% off the price of the hardback and paperback editions of Mild! Plus. It's easily the best book ever written about Mild. Mind you, there is only one other.

With over 500 pages of Mild-themed fun, it's the perfect gift for the enlightened beer drinker. Tables, facts, more tables and a few dozen recipes, it's much more than any normal person could ver need to know about Britain's least-favourite style.

Cheapskates can opt for the paperback edition:

While the true connoisseur can indulge in the luxury hardback:

Lexie needs new shoes. Don't make him go to school barefoot. Buy the book.

Watney, Combe Reid (part three)

Still not quite done with Watney.

It’s interesting to see just how the brewery saw themselves. I don’t think “progressive” is an adjective anyone would have used to describe Watney in the 1970’s.

“In many Other respects "Watney's" conforms to the pattern of the most progressive undertakings. Its ramifications are so wide as to surprise even those who know the industry well. Few brewers may know, for instance, that at the firm's Bungay Maltings willows are specially cultivated for sale to manufacturers  of cricket bats! It has kept abreast of the modern methods of scientific investigation; there  is close co-operation between brewing room and laboratory (the brewery claims to be the first in London to have a chemist on the staff). The firm's publicity is marked by freshness and vivacity even in an industry whose advertising is second to none in brilliance and originality. Welfare work takes many forms: there is a Ladies' Visiting Committee dealing with family welfare, a convalescent home, a rest home, a housing estate, to mention only a few. The firm has had its own sports ground at Mortlake for 30 years past.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 43.

Watney were eager embracers of advertising. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, they had the slogan “What we want is Watneys” and used the Watney’s wall on posters. Slogans were scrawled over a red brick background like graffiti. And who could forget their Red Revolution campaign for Watney’s Red? It was so ubiquitous it was difficult to ignore.

Am I reading that right? Does it say that Watney had their own convalescent home, rest home nd housing estate? Wonder what happened to those?

Most would have disagreed with this in the 1970’s:

“But it would be difficult to find outside the industry, together with this high degree of organisation and efficiency, the same thriving family spirit. For all that it has expanded and developed so rapidly in the past 50 years it has never become a mere giant machine. It is a "family business" still, imbued throughout with a strong sense of personal responsibility, and preserving what was best in the old firms while absorbing all that is best in the new.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 43.

Watney was definitely considered a “giant machine” in my young days. But I suppose the family links had been cut by then.

Here’s more stuff about the family nature of the business:

“In welcoming the guests, Major A. C. Bonsor, the chairman, said he would like particularly to emphasise the family side of the business, because many of the present directors of the firm were members of the old original families. Moreover, many of their staff and employees had long family association with the House of Watney. That, too, was in keeping with tradition, because they would rather engage the sons of the older people they had known than introduce new people into their business. He could give instances of people working for the House of Watney to-day who represented the fifth or sixth generation, some of whom, indeed, had been for 50 or more years in their service. That was a fact of which they were extremely proud.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 44.

I believe it was relatively common amongst long-established breweries to recruit from the offspring of existing employees. Isn’t that a form of nepotism?

But Watney wasn’t just about brewing. There was a whole raft of supporting trades:

“That was all the more noteworthy when he mentioned that a business such as theirs had many other connections. Their job was not simply the brewing of beer. They had subsidiary breweries, bottling stores and maltings, apart from vast motor works, laboratories and all sorts of other avenues giving employment to a large number of technical people. Apart, too, from possessing many freeholds in the London area, they employed lawyers, architects and scientific chemists  — the chemist who examined everything used in the process of brewing to ensure that all the commodities used in the brewing were of the highest standard of quality. So far as the architects were concerned they tried to bring all their houses up to date according to the most modern standards.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 44.

For my recollection of Watney’s pubs, the architects had tried to strip out any character or original features. They were generally pretty grim, unless you found one they hadn’t got around to ruining yet. Not all the big brewers were as bad. Tetley were pretty good at retaining Victorian and Edwardian interiors.

This last bit would have caused a good laugh in CAMRA circles in the 1970’s:

“The speaker went on to express the conviction that in most of the company's houses, the public could get not only good drink, but good food, coupled with a general feeling of cheeriness which should be the hallmark of every good public house.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", pages 44 - 45.

You wouldn’t have found any of those in the Watney pubs I recall. Crap beer, crap food, rubbish atmosphere.

Here are the crap beers you might have been drinking at the end of the decade:

Watney's bottled beers at the end of the 1950's
Year Beer Style Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1959 Best Pale Ale Pale Ale 32 0.05 1048.3 1013.9 4.46 71.22% 17
1959 Pale Ale Pale Ale 20 0.04 1033.2 1010.1 2.99 69.58% 23
1959 Dairy Maid Stout Stout 24 1033.3 1012.6 2.67 62.16% 250
1957 Dairymaid Sweet Stout Stout 24 0.06 1033.1 1012.7 2.63 61.63% 250
1957 Special Stout Stout 26 0.05 1042.3 1009.4 4.28 77.78% 200
1957 Reids Special Stout Stout 36 0.06 1045.2 1011.8 4.33 73.89% 225
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Two bob a pint for Dairymaid Stout? A beer that could be up to 25% returned beer and other junk? That’s just 2d less a pint than the much stronger Special Stout. They must have earned hand over fist with that beer.

Watney's draught beers at the end of the 1950's
Year Beer Style Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1957 Mild Ale Mild 15 0.05 1032 1007.6 3.16 76.25% 100
1957 Best PA Pale Ale 21 0.06 1044 1014.2 3.86 67.73% 20
1957 Keg Bitter Pale Ale 24 0.06 1039.4 1007.6 4.14 80.71% 23
1957 PA Pale Ale 17 0.06 1036.8 1006.9 3.89 81.25% 26
1959 Red Barrel Pale Ale 22 0.04 1038.5 1010 3.70 74.03% 24
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Lots of lovely Red Barrel. The beer called Keg Bitter looks like it’s Red Barrel. Great how it costs 3d more a pint than the stronger Best PA. What is it I always say? Keg beer – crap value yesterday, crap value today

That’s Watney done. Where to go next?